Wind-Up Knight

Wind-Up Knight is a pretty decent game, and Ouya is in short supply of those. I figured I should say that in the first sentence of this review since I have a lot of not-so-nice things to say about it. It’s yet another take on BIT.TRIP RUNNER, a game so frequently cloned that it’s posed to be a genre in and of itself. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Gamers really need to remove the corks from their blowholes regarding the issue. Popular games get cloned. They have since the dawn of time. Some people seem to think indies shouldn’t be subjected to this, out of respect or something.

Heh.

Haha.

WAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Oh God. Good times.

Annoying marketing covering the game's pictures? Yep, it's a mobile port.

Annoying marketing covering the game’s pictures? Yep, it’s a mobile port.

Seriously, what planet are you guys from? All forms of entertainment are based on the principle of monkey see, monkey do. And in the case of indie games being copied, it really doesn’t bother me because this is how genres get established. In the case of Ouya, BIT.TRIP isn’t on here. Never mind that there probably isn’t a single person on the planet who owns a Ouya but doesn’t own a platform that you can find RUNNER on somewhere. That’s not the point. Personally, I think it’s cool that a reasonably good facsimile of RUNNER is on the little indie box. Cool in the same way that someone with one of those fully functional Optimus Prime cosplay costumes is, the ones that make you stare in awe and wonder “how the fuck did he make that out of caulking and used paper towel tubes?”

Not that Wind-Up Knight tries to copy BIT.TRIP entirely. To its credit, it really does try to be something more. Unfortunately, “more” involves micro-transaction oriented upgrades. Yes, you can earn the cash to get these over the course of the game, and maybe most players will do better at it than I did. I’m a busy person, and I was trying to fly through Wind-Up Knight as quickly as possible. Hell, I completely forgot about the upgrades until there were only a few levels left. At which point I bought a sword that shoots a beam out that kills enemies quite far from you. I guess my forgetfulness was lucky in this case, because that sword pretty much stripped more than half the difficulty out of the game. I call this the “scissors on a tube of toothpaste effect.” But, if I hadn’t forgotten about the upgrades and had at any point purchased anything, I almost certainly would never have owned that sword unless I paid extra for it. It makes it feel like a free-to-play mobile game, which it in fact is.

Wind-Up Knight’s biggest problem, besides doing that thing most decent Ouya games seem to do where the seams from the game’s mobile roots stick out like a sore thumb, is the difficulty curve. Too often, a moderately challenging stage is immediately followed up by multiple levels that could be generously described as a cakewalk. (By the way, that term has meant “something incredibly easy” since the 1860s. Who even knew they had cake back then?)

Is wall jumping really something worth advertising? It's so commonplace these days it would be like having a car advertise that it comes with wheels.

Is wall jumping really something worth advertising? It’s so commonplace these days it would be like having a car advertise that it comes with wheels.

Or maybe not. Until the 47th level (of 48 total), I absolutely flew through Wind-Up Knight, which is weird because I got off to a rough start over the first ten or so levels. The same thing happened to me with BIT.TRIP RUNNER 2. I have to consider the possibility that I just got really good at it. Then it took me a few days to finish level 47, though a combination of seizures and having my annoying boyfriend around might have had something to do with that. Funny enough, once I beat that stage, I cleared the final level on my third attempt. Sadly, it was unquestionably easier, and only serves as the final stage because the graphical backdrop is more climatic. Sigh.

Oh, and in the really petty complaint department, I have a policy at Indie Gamer Chick that I pay for all the games and avoid demos. The Ouya obviously isn’t a system suited for this, even though you can now purchase a game without the mandatory play through. So I purchased Wind-Up Knight for $7.99. After finishing the first book, it gave me the option to purchase it for $4.99. I don’t know why, but that really pissed me off. It’s like punishing me for buying it earlier than expected. A lot of games do this, and trust me developers, it always annoys the consumers. Stop doing this.

Maybe my counting is off, because I only noticed 48 stages. Meh, whatever. I got an ending screen and thus I'm satisified. I mean, the ending screen then wouldn't go away. It was laid on top of the menu. The menu still worked under it though. It's weird, but I've had that happen at least a dozen times over the course of Indie Gamer Chick.

Maybe my counting is off, because I only noticed 48 stages. Meh, whatever. I got an ending screen and thus I’m satisfied. I mean, the ending screen then wouldn’t go away. It was laid on top of the menu. The menu still worked under it though. It’s weird, but I’ve had that happen at least a dozen times over the course of Indie Gamer Chick.

You know what though? I would be lying if I said I didn’t really enjoy Wind-Up Knight a lot from start to finish. It’s a pretty satisfying game. With a PlayStation 3 pad, the controls were responsive, the graphics worked, the level design was mostly good (unavoidable GOTCHA! style traps don’t appear until the very end of the game), and there’s plenty of extra challenges to extend the gameplay. Where Wind-Up Knight falters most is in personality. Or, more specifically, not having any. Characters are bland, writing is bland, levels look bland, weapons look bland, the music is bland, and the sound effects are bland. It’s almost tiring in how joyless the atmosphere is. Wind-Up Knight was inspired by BIT.TRIP RUNNER, but the inspiration begins and ends with gameplay. It has none of the charm or quirkiness of BIT.TRIP, which is one of the major attractions of that franchise. The developers at Robot Invader are making a sequel, and if they take away only one thing from this review, I hope it’s this: have more fun making it. I can always tell when developers were too serious when developing a game, and I suspect that’s what went wrong with Wind-Up Knight. So please, pull the sticks out of your asses and put them where they belong: up Ben Kuchera’s ass.

windupWind-Up Knight was developed by Robot Invader

$7.99 (Grumble) said Robot Invader could make me feel less butt-hurt over that extra $3 I spent by donating the difference to Autism Speaks in the making of this review.

IGC_ApprovedWind-Up Knight is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard. I also played the iOS and Android ports, and they also are Chick-Approved. Levels 13 through 48 can be unlocked for 1,200 “notes” (in-game currency) or $1.99 for each pack of 12. Go with the Ouya version if that’s an option.

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MushRoom Bounce!

Ouya’s biggest problem is it has a lot of games that sound like they’ll be fun and look just fine when you’re browsing the marketplace. Then you actually get them and you realize they’re, if not awful, bland and uninspired. MushRoom Bounce! looked decent and sounded unique. It didn’t take too long after booting it up to figure out that it’s actually pretty boring.

Pretty much anything movable can be pocketed, though the points don't seem worth the effort.

Pretty much anything movable can be pocketed, though the points don’t seem worth the effort.

There’s been games like this. You take various mushrooms or “interactive” objects and push them into holes (sort of like billiards) for points. Once you’ve pocketed all the mushrooms, the stage is cleared and you move on. I guess it’s kind of similar to Namco’s 1985 coin-op/compilation seat-warmer Motos, only with no sense of danger and a lot less polish. And although there’s not a whole lot technically wrong with it, MushRoom Bounce! is just plain not fun. That makes it kind of tough to talk about.

I guess I can focus on how the physics doesn’t always seem stable. To hit stuff, you simply walk into it. This one time, a mushroom was on the edge of one of the holes. I walked straight into it from the right side. In theory, this should have immediately pocketed the mushroom. Instead, it flew straight upwards. It was baffling. Not that this was a regular thing, but there was more than one instant where a mushroom seemed to take an unexplained irregular bounce. Other times, I would see the mushrooms get stuck in corners, or stuck behind objects, or lose all momentum for seemingly no reason. Controls are slightly clunky, which makes aiming a bit of a chore. Then again, since the game has no real sense of tension or ways to fail, the game feels more like a chore-simulator so I guess that’s appropriate.

A bigger problem is the menus themselves. I went to customize the PlayStation 3 controller I was using, but none of my actions with the controller while attempting this seemed to correspond to what was happening in the menu, and I was ultimately locked completely out of the game. Until I restarted my Ouya at least. I’m not just picking on the developers of MushRoom Bounce here, either. Bad menus have been a recurring theme during my adventures in Indie Land. Surely you guys that are making these games have yourselves played games at some point. And, when I go to the developers to ask them what happened, it typically boils down to “I never really checked them because I didn’t think they were important.”  That’s not the case with MushRoom Bounce, by the way. I haven’t talked with the devs since they requested the review. But for God’s sake, check the damn things before you send the game out.

I didn't play this far. I got to level 20 before I couldn't take any more. I think the premium levels don't start until a little bit after that, meaning I totally threw away a dollar. I could have gotten an over-sized novelty gumball or fed a starving African child for a week. My teeth thank you, Two Squid Games. The starving African child might not.

I didn’t play this far. I got to level 20 before I couldn’t take any more. I think the premium levels don’t start until a little bit after that, meaning I totally threw away a dollar. I could have gotten an over-sized novelty gumball or fed a starving African child for a week. My teeth thank you, Two Squid Games. The starving African child might not.

Despite what people might think, based on my reputation, I always look for positive things to say about games I review. I couldn’t come up with anything for MushRoom Bounce, besides the fact that it might be an okay title for very, very young children. There’s just no point to it. You can go for high scores on the online leaderboards, but with gameplay this tedious, why bother? You have items to shake things up, but there’s no limit on them, and thus I stuck to laying out large bombs and letting physics take over, then tapping in anything that wasn’t pocketed by the explosions. Maybe if this had been multiplayer, it might have been more tolerable. As is, it’s like playing Hungry-Hungry Hippos by yourself. As someone who was one of those sad kids that played Hungry-Hungry-Hippos by herself, I assure you, that’s about as fun as it sounds like. Which is to say, not at all.

Mushroom bounce logoMushRoom Bounce! was developed by Two Squid Games

$0.99 said doing mushrooms has never been so dull in the making of this review.

*Note, the video makes it look like there might be a multiplayer mode, but if there is on the Ouya version, I couldn’t find it, and we looked.

Ultionus: A Tale of Petty Revenge

Petty revenge, my favorite.

Ultionus: A Tale of Petty Revenge is a SHMUP/platformer (SHMUP-former? former-SHMUP?) where you play as Serena, heroine of the universe, who is out for revenge after being trolled on Spacebook by the Space Prince. After crash landing on his planet, you have to make your way through a number of stages to reach his castle so you may exact revenge.

A normal start.

A normal start.

The game pulls its looks from PC games of the mid-90s—classics such as Jazz Jackrabbit and Duke Nukem. It looks great and the animations are fluid. Regarding animations, the game does have some…suggestive assets that may turn some users onto or off from it. The heroine is quite voluptuous, and the opening sequence takes particular care to emphasize this. She also runs around in a barely-there space suit as she makes her way to the final castle. I felt it was done in a humorous manner, but I can see it being a problem for some.

I want to point out the controls because, to me, they are one of the most important aspects of any game. Ultionus takes time to get used to. The opening stage is your standard space SHMUP, but once you’re on the planet’s surface, things change drastically. One of my largest complaints with this game is also one of the most common complaints I read online, it’s that you can’t fire while moving. The game does try to use part of one stage to get you used to the idea but it’s still jarring once the action starts. If you do stop, you’re unable to keep up with the enemy spawns as you try to clear a path. Most players probably stop at this point but if you master jumping while moving, an action that doesn’t slow you down, you’ll be fine.

She stopped to shoot. Bad idea!

She stopped to shoot. Bad idea!

I played through Ultionus on Normal, and while there were some portions of the game where I died a lot that gave me some trouble, overall the game didn’t feel terribly difficult. You get nine lives and unlimited continues, which makes beating the game a venture that takes maybe a couple of hours your first time.There are a handful of vehicle stages where you are rewarded for how fast you can smash the Fire key which will kill your wrist. I had to take a day’s break to recover after one such stage.

One part of the game made me question the design of its absurd art style the first time I saw it: The Game Over screen depicts a “bad end” scene with the main character bent over, drooling and ass in the air. (NSFW-ish, triggering pic) It caught me off guard and left me feeling awkward.

All in all, I would not recommend this game. I did enjoy parts of it and the ending was satisfying, but the overall length of the game and easy patterns in boss fights left much to be desired.

ultionuslogoUltionus: A Tale of Petty Revenge was developed by Last Dimension. It may also be found on Ouya

$for 9.99 you’ll be able to share this dish served cold.

Booyah for Ouya?

Let’s get one thing out of the way really quick: the Ouya controller is horrible.  One of the worst gaming controllers I’ve ever encountered.  Now granted, I wasn’t around for such unworkable inputs as the Intellivision pad, the Atari 5200 floppy stick, the Jaguar, etc.  The closest thing I could compare the Ouya’s controller to is a generic plug-and-play controller I picked up from a Walgreens for under a dollar on clearance.  Laggy.  Unresponsive.  Cheap-feeling.  Tough to corner with.  The bumpers are horrendous.  And the way you put batteries in it is just fucking absurd.  This controller SUCKS!  There’s word going around that Ouya kiosks are being set up, and I can think of no quicker way to sink the system for good.  If they don’t fix the controller, they’ll drive away more people than they’ll convince to purchase.  Almost every game I tried out for it, I was immediately aggravated by.  I almost wrote the machine off entirely.

And then I plugged in a PS3 controller.  I swear to God, it became an entirely different experience.  Games were suddenly playable on the damn thing.  I can’t stress enough: as soon as convenient, dump the Ouya controller for a PS3 or Xbox pad.  Then find the nearest hammer and take it to the Ouya pad, so as to never be tempted by it again.  If a game comes out that doesn’t have alternative controller support?  Fuck it.  Not worth your time.  Not that the PS3 support is perfect.  I couldn’t turn the fucking controller off when I put the system to sleep.  The option that says “turn off controller” in fact does not turn off the controller.  The only way to turn it off was to physically unplug the Ouya.  And not every game has support for it, despite the fact that developers told me including support is super easy.  For a few games, the mapping seemed to either not work or be off in some way.

Fuck you.

Fuck you.

With the PS3 pad, my Ouya became a perfectly fine little Android-based gaming device.  But the controller is hardly the only problem it has.  The interface is missing a lot of key things that most consumers care about.  Like, oh, THE FUCKING PRICE OF THE GAMES!  There is no listing for the prices for anything on the market, or even on Ouya’s website.  Instead, you have to download the demo for the game first.  Only it’s not called a demo.  It’s called a “free download.”  Now, if you’re not familiar with the system, someone might think they’re pulling a bait and switch here.  But this is also bad for people on a budget.  Let’s say you only have $10 to spend.  You can’t sort out anything that costs more.  It’s something that dreamy-eyed idealists would probably think is a good idea.  In practice, players are not going to wade through games of unknown price until they finally stumble upon one they can afford.  They’ll just spend their budget on a different platform.  This is yet another “what were they thinking?” moment, of which Ouya has plenty of.

It’s especially annoying for me because I don’t sample anything I intend to review at Indie Gamer Chick.  I select games for review based on how they look and sound in concept, or maybe a trailer.  That’s just my preferred style.  It’s often not possible on Ouya.  There’s too much emphasis on demos and not enough on sales.  Another problem is there is no way to sort games by new releases.  A lot of people, myself included, enjoy looking through new releases.  The lack of such a tab really hurts the novelty of digital distribution, where any given day could be the day that a platform’s new best title hits.  Instead, you have to poke around the genre tabs.  If “what were they thinking?” is the number one running theme of the Ouya, inconvenience is the number two theme.

Again, I hate demos.  But hey, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.  So here are all the demos I downloaded, and my thoughts on them.

TowerfallTowerfall: By far the most talked about Ouya game.  And naturally, I can’t play it.  It’s not compatible with my epilepsy.  Thankfully, the developers are talking about adding an effects switch for the PlayStation 4 port.  Oddly enough, this is the second console I’ve gotten this month where the most hyped game was unplayable by me.  I couldn’t play Resogun on PS4 for the same reason.

Amazing FrogAmazing Frog? The Hopping Dead: The idea is kind of like Pain for PS3 meets a sandbox game.  Walking around a pretty decent sized world, you want to crash your frog into as many things in a single jump as possible.  Nice concept, and the full single-player experience is mostly free.  But Amazing Frog is hugely glitchy, which wrecked the experience for me.  Scoring is based on how much shit you crash into before you stand yourself up.  But, while you’re limp and rag-dolling around, you can still move pretty much indefinitely.  Plus, there are lots of issues with clipping, slowdown, or your character just plain falling down as you move around, because it registers him as bumping into something.  And why is the jumping so weak in this?  You would think a game based around a frog character would at least let your initial jump be pretty high, but that’s just not the case.  I wouldn’t consider spending a dime on this until it’s cleaned up.

GlobulousGlobulous: Globulous looks like a clone of unsung N64 gem Tetrisphere.  There’s a game that nobody talks about today, and I have no idea why.  I was very excited by this.  But, after downloading it, I discovered the PS3 controller support is broken.  None of the buttons work, just the sticks.  Weirdly enough, if I also turn on a Ouya controller, the buttons on that work but not the movement.  In theory, I could play it with my left hand controlling movement on the PS3 pad and the right hand controlling all the action on the Ouya pad.  This seemed to be a bit sloppy though.  Then again, the controls seem sloppy all around no matter which way you try to play it.  I didn’t get too deep, because the only option to play it without looking like a tool was to put down the PS3 controller and slum it with the Ouya pad.  I wasn’t kidding earlier. I absolutely refuse to use the Ouya controller.  No game is worth it.

RedRed: A really bland and basic twin-stick-shooter.  I’ve played so many of these since starting IGC that, without a really novel hook, I can’t get into them.  And this one’s starting gun requires you to repeatedly press the fire button instead of just shooting, which wears on your fingers quickly.  Easy pass.

ittle Dewittle Dew: The winner of the “worst timing on Ouya” award goes to ittle Dew, a homage to classic 2D Zelda games.  Which I unfortunately played right after starting A Link Between Worlds.  It’s hard to get excited about this after playing the first real, authentic 2D Zelda since Minish Cap (the DS games don’t count.  Zelda is not meant to be played with a plastic stick).  Not that ittle Dew would be perfect if not for those circumstances.  Even with a PS3 controller, the controls are sloppy and the combat is clumsy.  I also didn’t love the hand-drawn graphics, but at least it seems to place an emphasis on puzzle design.  I still would have probably bought it, but now that my Zelda itch has been scratched, I might not ever touch it again.

A Ride into the MountainsA Ride into the Mountains: I get flack sometimes for picking on free games.  I don’t think I’m being a bitch about it, but often free games just plain aren’t fun or worth a look at.  A Ride in the Mountains is totally free, and the concept of a chick on horseback shooting enemies with a bow & arrow is solid.  But the aiming controls are horrible.  This originally started out as an iPhone/Android game, meant to be played on a touch screen.  The iPhone port was 99 cents, and I immediately recognized it as a superior game.  In a game about aiming, ease of the aim mechanic is paramount, and the Ouya port just doesn’t have that.  I might end up doing a full review of the phone game at some point.  The Ouya version should be skipped.

ReaperReaper: Another theme of Ouya games are ones that show their mobile roots.  Reaper is an action-RPG, one that handles some of the hacky-slashy button mashy stuff automatically.  Unfortunately, not enough was done in porting this over to Ouya.  All movement is so slow and floaty, it’s as if the game takes place underwater.  This would probably be fine if playing on a flimsy, buttonless phone screen, but it doesn’t work well at all on a console.  Of all the games I played that I disliked, this one probably has the most potential to be worthwhile in a short amount of time.  But for now, it’s probably better off as a phone port.

SurvivalSurvival: The only buttons on the PS3 controller that worked were the shoulder buttons.  This meant I would have to use the Ouya pad.  No thanks.  We need to get the Geneva Convention involved in this.   Survival looked neat in a classic Atari game type of way, but I will never use the Ouya controller ever again.  After asking developers I know, they agree that implementation of PS3 controller support is super easy.  There really is no excuse.

Deep Dungeons of DoomDeep Dungeons of Doom: This was, as of yet, the only game reviewed by Indie Gamer Team member Michael.  He was slightly leaned against purchase.  Oddly enough, this was the first Ouya game I spent money on.  It was fun, in a simple, stripped-down to bare essentials type of way.  The give-and-take combat reminded me a little of Super Mario RPG mixed with Punch-Out, in that enemies telegraph their moves and the object is to memorize their patterns so that you can effectively dodge-and-counter.  Of course, DDOD is a roguelike, and I get along with those like a chihuahua soaked in blood would get along with a school of piranhas.  But I’m cautiously optimistic about its chances enough that I took a chance and bought it.  Don’t get me wrong though: this is not going to be the killer app system mover Ouya needs.  Just a solid title.  Maybe.

MeltdownMeltdown: No, this is not a game based on my recent PS4 experience.  It’s an isometric shooter-adventure.  But, for whatever reason, the trigger buttons when using the PS3 controller did not seem to work.  All the face buttons worked fine, as they are assigned to do, but the triggers, which you need to shoot with, did not work.  I begrudgingly checked with the standard Ouya controller, just long enough to confirm the triggers on that worked.  They did.  I switched back to the PS3 controller, only to find that none of the buttons now worked.  I turned the game off, turned it back on, and all the buttons worked fine, except the triggers again.  An interesting looking game, but I am not going to play it with the Ouya pad.

Mystery CastleMystery Castle: By far the Ouya game with the highest Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard potential, Mystery Castle is a Lolo-inspired puzzler.  But it does so much more than Lolo, or really any other homage to Lolo I’ve played, and that includes some spectacular titles.  Control is a little stiff, but that’s par for the course with this sub-genre.  The demo includes 36 free levels, but what’s really bizarre is that, instead of having the first couple levels on each “world” be free, the lineup seems to be totally random, as if selected by lottery.  I guess this is done to show how the difficulty progresses.  This will probably be my first full Ouya review.

Yes, there are plenty of solid niche games for Ouya.  But many of the system-exclusives are underwhelming or mediocre.  The issues with alternate input are found across multiple titles.  I initially had a more detailed feature planned here where I would advocate Ouya charging smaller royalties to developers in an attempt to lure in higher quality exclusives.  But, the truth is, Ouya has almost no life left in it.  Regretfully, I think the system is a failure.  Yea, most consoles these days launch with underwhelming lineups.  But the problems with Ouya run so much deeper.  The controller issues are too great, the point of sale is to sloppy, and the business model isn’t set up for success.  I’ve spoken with developers of solid titles that have moved around a dozen copies on the platform.  A dozen.

When I think of Ouya, I’ll think of why I never was a fan of Kickstarter to begin with.  Kickstarter is free money without discipline.  It never asks of its pitchers to present a solid business plan.  Ouya received 8.5 *million* dollars.  That’s a lot of money to throw at a start-up with this kind of risk, especially when nobody bothered to ask them how they’re going to keep the company afloat once the well runs dry.  Sure, they lured in a couple of Triple-A throw-away titles like Sonic 4 or a port of a remake of a Final Fantasy game that came out when I was less than a year old.  Games that any rational person would recognize were sent out to die.  Meanwhile, developers are being bled for a 30% royalty, which is the industrial average, on a console that I found hidden beneath the rack with PC gift cards at Target.  You can’t charge industrial average when you have less than a 1% market share.  You just can’t.  The best the Ouya team could come up with was their ridiculous “Free the Games” fund, which demonstrated the lack of discipline their team has.  Ouya is a microcosm of the game industry run amok.  For all the talk of how evil console giants Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are, those dark-hearted policies of theirs assure a vital and thriving library and a platform for profitability.  Gaming is a business.  Someone should have reminded the Ouya team and their 8.5 million dollars worth of contributors about this a year ago.

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